Born in Detroit, Michigan, on this date in 1931, Milner lived part of his boyhood in Seattle, where he first took up acting. He subsequently moved with his family to Los Angeles, and in 1947 had his screen debut in Life with Father. His first TV role was in a 1950 episode of The Lone Ranger. Milner met actor (later director and producer) Jack Webb–who would cast him in Adam-12–in 1950 on the set of a Richard Widmark/Jack Palance World War II picture called Halls of Montezuma.
But military service interrupted his acting career after he celebrated his 21st birthday. Wikipedia explains,
In 1952, Milner was drafted into the U.S. Army. In Special
Services at Fort Ord on California’s Monterey Bay peninsula, he directed
training films and, with fellow actor/soldier David Janssen, emceed and performed in skits to entertain the soldiers. Milner and Janssen encouraged fellow soldier Clint
Eastwood to pursue an acting career when his time in the Army ended. While
in the Army, Milner continued working for Jack Webb, playing “Officer Bill Lockwood” (briefly the partner of “Sgt. Friday”) and other characters on the Dragnet radio series on weekends. He also appeared
on six episodes of Webb’s Dragnet television series between 1952 and 1955.
In addition to his performances on Route 66 and Adam-12, Milner starred (with a very young Helen Hunt) in the short-lived Irwin Allen small-screen series Swiss Family Robinson.
He also did turns on Felony Squad, Police Story, and Murder, She
Wrote. I remember Milner from the 1978 disaster teleflick Hurricane, in which he played a courageous pilot taking on a brutal storm, and he holds the distinction of having been the first murder victim in the regular run of Peter Falk’s Columbo, playing a successful mystery novelist in the September 15, 1971, episode, “Murder by the Book.”
Both IMDb and Wikipedia state that Milner’s final acting job was in a 1997 episode of Diagnosis Murder titled “Murder Blues,” with him playing an LAPD detective. However, he co-hosted Let’s Talk Hook-up, a San Diego, California-based radio talk show about the wonders of fishing (one of his passions), from 1993 to 2004.
I hope that wherever Martin Milner is on this day at the very tail end of 2012, he’s enjoying the hell out of his retirement.
(Hat tip to Frederick Zackel.)